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Another golf course under redevelopment has neighbors fighting back

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The idea of ​​stepping out the back door, sitting on your porch and gazing at the serene nature of a golf course has long been a retirement dream for countless Americans. But golf courses across the country lost money and closed their doors, leaving those who accepted the idea of ​​an idyllic fairway retreat with a nightmarish situation.

Currently, the North Carolina Court of Appeals is reviewing the fate of a former golf course in southern New Hanover County, located in the Cape Subdivision. Homeowners may have been in a fight to make one last attempt to thwart a developer’s attempts and preserve the green space they bought homes with.

The course in question has gone by several names over the years, most recently the Masonboro Country Club — but now the lush greens are brown and the previously manicured fairways are overgrown with shrubs and grasses. The owners of the golf course shut down operations following Hurricane Florence and are trying to reallocate the land to more residential units.

Golf courses can make money over time, but at a time when land and home values ​​are reaching all-time highs, the real estate market can prove to be much more profitable for property owners and developers. . It’s a story that has become common across the country, and locally a good example of a similar situation can be seen in Echo Farms.

Neighbors of Echo Farms formed a grassroots organization to fight green space development, but ultimately only managed to save a small portion of the land.

Despite the challenges they face, The Cape Owners Association believes they can be victorious in their case. At the heart of the lawsuit is the argument that an easement that was granted when the golf course was developed was explicitly for the purpose of operating a golf course.

It may come as a surprise to people moving into a golf course community, but neighborhoods and owners are often not the golf course owners. Sometimes they are owned by club members and are paid with annual dues, other times private companies run and maintain the courses.

This is what happened in Cape Town. Homeowners’ association president Bill Connelly said they had tried for years to come to an agreement, even asking to buy the course from the owners.

“There is a long history here of discussions that came to nothing and ultimately led to us filing a complaint,” he said.

Then there’s the issue of developers charging a premium for golf courses, like many of those inside Cape Town, as a sales tactic.

“The course has never been part of or owned by the residents or the owners association, it has always been independently owned,” said Mike Bodnar, a resident of Cape Town.

But, golf courses are not cheap to maintain.

From staffing to landscaping maintenance, expenses can quickly add up. Without people paying to play games, it’s not hard to see how quickly they can lose money and how course owners can find themselves underwater.

The Cape golf course hasn’t always been a losing business, Bodnar said, but in its latest iteration, the golf course owner decided to spend millions of dollars to redo the course. In doing so, it has made it one of the most difficult courses on the market.

“After the first nine months of opening, they conducted an investigation and there were 15,000 rounds of golf played and 45,000 golf balls collected by one of these companies that entered,” he said. declared.

Challenges are something that many golfers enjoy, but when a course is too difficult for the average golfer to enjoy the game, it’s no surprise that the numbers go down.

Rayl Tayloe is the attorney representing Southern Destiny, LLC., Owners of the course who wish to sell it for additional residential units. The case has already been decided by a Superior Court judge who ruled in favor of additional units.

“He determined that my client, Southern Destiny had the right to transform his property from a golf course to a residential development,” he said.

One of the biggest concerns of residents is that they do not yet know what is planned.

“The plan is that only part of the property will be developed as a residential subdivision… What will end up being built there remains to be seen whether we are successful in the court of appeal,” Tayloe said.

The parties argued in the Court of Appeal in December, but we won’t know the outcome for several months. Bodnar said he wouldn’t be surprised if the case ended up in the state’s Supreme Court.

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